I am always amazed at the queues in front of ice-cream stands at St James' Park in the middle of winter. Even with a mini blizzard blowing, the penchant for a frozen cone remain undaunted. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised for I had a sudden craving for Malay style deep fried chicken while strolling along Singapore'a Orchard Road under the blazing sun during a recent trip back home.
Orchard Road isn't exactly the place to go for deep fried chicken. It's like hunting for a good eel pie in the middle of Oxford Street. Wife promptly messaged her Malay pal, M. It took her just two minutes to reply. "Definitely try Ayam Penyat Ria at Lucky Plaza" read her reply. Lucky Plaza was just a five minute stroll from where we were. Brilliant.
We had a harder time trying to locate the shop once we stepped into Lucky Plaza but we did locate the information counter. "I'm looking for a Malay restaurant... just can't remember the name. It starts with Ayam (chicken in Malay) something..." I started fumbling for M's reply. "Ayam Penya Riat?" the receptionist helpfully suggested, "it's at the first right ahead." She must have spent many lunches over there.
Ayam Penyat Ria (an Indonesian restaurant to be precise) was still undergoing refurbishment when we were there. There were signs all over pointing to a side entrance though. With its kitchen confined to one end, the payment counter set up right next to the entrance with a sizable spartan seating arrangement, it reminded me of a factory canteen. The only difference is that you wouldn't need to actually need to queue up for your food.
After a full meal at Grandma's (restaurant at the basement of Paragon) and with plans to have another meal at Orchard Central's Nolboo, we were really just looking for a light bite. We got a sayap penyat (smashed chicken wings). At S$6, it was quite reasonably priced with two wings, tauhu goreng (fries bean curd), potato chunks and a dash of chilli. All that resting on a serving of kangkong (a semi-aquatic tropical leaf vegetable).
I'm still not convinced that the wings were "smashed". I can handle spatchcock chicken but the wings looked in perfect form to me. But the turmeric used to marinate them was unmistakable, something that the Chinese seem not to have gotten round using. If there was any doubts lingering, the chilli surely dispelled that. Instead of using Thai sweet chilli, Ayam Penyat Ria's was the salty variety, something my Indonesian and Malaysian friends should be more familiar with.
The sayap penyat certainly wasn't caked with battering like your local KFC. Nor was it limp. It wasn't oily too. It was almost like a guilt free sin trip. Throw bean curd and greens into the mix and I almost felt like I was having a healthy snack. Never mind that the bean curd was fried too.
Too top it up, we got an avocado juice (S$4.20). Compared to the fried chicken wings, that was a small fortune. At least that was what I thought before I tasted the gula Melaka (coconut palm sugar). Most hawker centre stalls peddling avocado juice would sweeten the drink with surgery syrup. The gula Melaka with its deeply satisfying succinct sweetness makes all the difference.
Singapore's Orchard Road stretch isn't really all about fine dining, food courts and fast food restaurants. You just have to scratch the surface to find delightful eating spots such as Ayam Penyat Ria. If you are ever in need, just ask the receptionist where she's having lunch.
This is a collection of food posts from a recent visit to Singapore. Also look out for Malaysian Food Street, Hock Lam Beef Kuay Teow and Wok & Barrel.
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